In previous articles we’ve written about how to reduce energy consumption and leverage the power of the sun to generate electricity or hot water. The sun also produces wind, which can be used to generate electricity. Wind turbines are designed to catch the wind and are most commonly installed by large commercial businesses, agricultural businesses, municipalities and the utilities.
Unlike the sun, which is essentially as strong at sea level as 200 feet in the air, wind energy is weakest at the earth’s surface and strengthens the higher up you go. For this reason the most effective wind turbines are installed on the top of buildings or have towers over 80 feet tall. Also, the taller the wind turbine tower, the fewer obstacles there are to block the wind flow. Buildings, trees and hills can all block the wind flow and diminish the power the turbine will generate.
The conventional wisdom within the wind industry is that you need three things to have a successful wind project: wind resource, wind resource and wind resource. Wind resource is the annual wind speed in a particular area. For a wind turbine to be effective it should be located in an area that has an annual wind speed of at least 10-12 miles an hour, like most of Long Island. In fact, you can consult the Long Island Wind Resource map on LIPA’s website and see the annual wind speeds in any given area.
Once you determine the wind resource in your town or village, you will need to find out the zoning code and permit requirements. Many building departments on Long Island don’t even have a wind code, and the ones that do typically allow turbines only on relatively large parcels of land. This is because most codes require that a wind turbine be placed anywhere from 100 to 300 feet from a property line. Wind turbine advocates are now working on a standardized building code that will apply to most municipalities on Long Island. The new code could allow more townships to permit the use of wind turbines if the project meets the guideline requirements.
There are several kinds of wind turbines, the least efficient being the vertical axis turbines. These turbines often look like a barber pole. They do not generate meaningful amounts of power due to their extremely limited swept area and typically low tower heights. The horizontal axis turbine is a propeller mounted on a tower at least 80 feet tall. These kinds of wind turbines minimize the effects of turbulence and maximize output and are most commonly used for large commercial businesses, agricultural sites and municipalities. Utility-scale turbines (delivering power to the power company) are typically mounted on 300’ plus towers and often placed offshore or in other windy spots and generate a great deal of energy.
Long Island has excellent wind resources and LIPA has a great wind rebate program that will help to lower the cost. However, there are a very limited number of parcels that are a) large enough for a wind turbine, b) have unobstructed flow and c) are in jurisdictions where a turbine could be permitted. Some of the best sites for wind turbines are at nurseries, farms and vineyards on the North and South Forks – because usually these locations are windy and there is enough land for the turbine to meet the zoning code set back requirements. Very large municipal, commercial and residential lots in unobstructed and windy places are also viable. We’ve installed several wind turbines on the North Fork and all are generating equal or more power than we projected.
If you are curious to see a couple wind turbines in action, we’ve installed turbines at Pindar Vineyards, 67 Steps Vineyards, Shinn Vineyards, and McCall Vineyards (pictured), all on the North Fork. There is also one at North Fork Green House and two on Long Lane in East Hampton.
GreenLogic LLC, 425 County Road 39A, Southampton. www.greenlogic.com, 631-771-5152